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Big Cat sighted near Erskine Falls, Otways, Victoria
According to the Geelong Advertiser, a black big cat was sighted by Simon Raik-Allen near Erskine Falls in the Otway forest.
The date of the sighting is not clear, although the time is listed as 5.30am on the Erskine Falls Road.
Raik-Allen estimates the cat as being 1.5 metres long and 50 centimetres tall.
Interview with Simon Raik-Allen
(2 Jan 2007)
Following the above news report I made contact with Mr Raik-Allen and he was gracious enough to allow me to post additional details regarding the sighting, here on Where Light Meets Dark. To Simon - thank you.
Location - Lorne, Victoria
Simon Raik-Allen originally comes from Lorne, on the coast of Victoria, to the west of Melbourne. Although presently he lives interstate, he had returned to the area for a holiday during the Christmas season in 2007.
He describes the area as being on the edge of the Otways - with dense rainforest, the area is arguably the wettest region in Victoria. A road runs through the rainforest from Lorne to Erskine Falls. There are a few farms scattered in the region, but predominantly the area is uninhabited.
At approximately 5.30 in the morning of 29 December 2007, Raik-Allen was woken by the cries of his son. With other people asleep in the house he decided to take his son for a drive and headed out along the Erskine Falls road.
As mentioned, the area consisted of dense rainforest which he says came right up to the edges of the road.
Coming around a bend Raik-Allen saw an animal on the road between 100 and 200 metres ahead. He instantly recognised it as cat-like, and due to its size and being "pitch black" thought the animal was a panther.
There was another bend in the road between him and the cat and when he had come through it the cat had disappeared. Raik-Allen stopped the car at the place where the animal had been and looked into the rainforest but did not sight the animal again.
Not wanting to get out of the vehicle because of the cat's presence, he waited for half a minute or so before driving on.
Detailed description of the cat
When I asked Mr Raik-Allen how he gauged the size of the cat he said it filled the space between the side of the road and the centre-line - some 1.5 metres.
At the time he ran through a list of animals it might be (other than a panther) but dismissed it being a house cat (too big) or possum (wrong colour) and came back to the fact that its posture was entirely cat-like.
The cat was in a semi-crouching position, head down, shoulders up, sniffing the road. It had a very "long, looping tail" which stuck out the back, "not up like a house cat". Despite its large size, Raik-Allen was surprised that the cat seemed smaller both in length and height than what he would have expected a panther to be.
Was the cat a domestic feral?
In relation to this last comment, I asked whether Mr Raik-Allen was familiar with the Kurt Engle feral domestic cat which was shot in Eastern Victoria and proved to be of record proportions.
Even though he wasn't aware of that monster moggy, his response took an interesting turn
Additional sightings by neighbours
Having had several days to discuss the sighting with friends and relatives, Raik-Allen spoke with a neighbour who immediately explained his sighting as a domestic feral cat.
As the neighbour explained, city-dwelling folks would buy a pet cat which would then have kittens. They might keep a single kitten and then release the rest of the litter - sometimes up to a dozen cats.
According to the neighbour these would grow to monster proportions in the bush - a claim which is backed up by Engle's cat on the other side of Melbourne.
But more than simple folklore, this neighbour had, herself, caught exactly such a cat. Rather, the cat had found its way into her garage and so she called the local council to ask what should be done. They gave her a cage with which she somehow managed to capture the beast.
Two men helped her remove the animal but according to her they had difficulty moving it - even in the cage. Not wanting to re-release the cat, it was thrown off the Lorne pier. Presumably there is a cage somewhere in the sea which possibly has the remains of an oversized feral cat in it, but I don't have details on when this is supposed to have occurred.
Mountain bike riders
In talking with another researcher, Raik-Allen learned that several big cats had been sighted over the past year. The increase in sightings, he believes, is due to the fact that numbers of mountain bike riders are increasing. While farmers navigate their properties with motorbikes - loud enough to warn any wildlife of their approach for miles in advance - mountain bikes are both quiet, and faster than, for example, bush walkers.
Perhaps there is merit in that. Certainly any mountain bikers reading this article are welcome to submit any unusual fauna sightings!
According to Raik-Allen's testimony, this certainly was big for a cat. Given Engle's specimen, this cat is well within range of an Australian feral domestic cat - but then, it could easily be a young panther too.